THE IMMORTAL CHUGHTAI PAINTING “TOO LATE” THAT STARTED IT ALL
LED TO FORMAL INTRODUCTION TO DR ALLAMA IQBAL OF THE ARTIST
It was around 1918. M.A. Rahman Chughtai was walking on the street with a painting in his hand when he met a dear friend of his on way to Dr Allama Iqbal’s house in Anarkali. That friend knew Dr Iqbal personally. The friend volunteered to introduce him formally to Dr Allama Iqbal. Dr Iqbal came on the terrace himself and received them. He asked Chughtai artist as to the nature of his profession. Chughtai Sahib replied I am a painter and I paint things. ‘What do you have in your hands” asked Dr Iqbal. Chughtai Sahib explained it was a painting and explained the nature of the painting. The visit of the beloved to the grave of the lover who was by that time dead, and the theme was that it was too late for any remorse now. In other words SOOZ AUR SAZ. Dr Iqbal was enamoured with the ideas of the artist and suggested a Quranic verse for the sarcophagus. The artist was pleased and went into deep thought himself. On way back home he tore the painting and made it again according to the suggestion of Dr Iqbal himself. Various versions of the work were made and were in possession of various collectors. Not known if any survive to this day. A reputed version with Nawab of Bhawalpur in his palace was attacked by termites and a portion of the work remained, which even that is not known to exist at all. From the first version around 1918 to the last version around 1931, the work made the relations of Iqbal and Chughtai closer to each other.
It led to a twenty years relation of the artist and the poet in their life time and a life long relation later, and the production of the greatest art book in the history of Pakistan, that is Amal-e-Chughtai, the magnum opus of the artist. Allah bless both icons of Pakistan!